By Tony Parra
A select group of Eastern New Mexico University students have spent most of their academic lives in eastern New Mexico. With graduation Saturday, many will spread their wings and exit eastern New Mexico in search of a promising future.
Some of the students who will be walking across the stage and receiving their diplomas have gone to elementary, junior high and high school in Elida, Portales and Melrose.
ENMU graduation will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the Greyhound Arena.
There are 38 students from the Portales area among the 232 graduation candidates at ENMU this fall.
Mariola Clark, a Portales High School graduate, is one of the 56 who will be receiving a master’s degree. Clark said she’s appreciative of receiving her education from ENMU, but would like to explore outside of the state of New Mexico for a career. She said her master’s in communicative disorders allows her to do that.
“It’s an open field (communicative disorders),” Clark said. “There are jobs everywhere in the field. I would like to be a speech pathologist. You can help with babies with speech problems or those who are older who need speech therapy like people in a nursing home.”
Clark attended New Mexico State University one year before transferring to ENMU. She sees a huge difference between the two universities in being able to interact with her professors more at ENMU and not be just a number. Clark said she was one of about 250 students in a class at NMSU.
Landri Rush also went to NMSU for one year before transferring to ENMU. Rush, a Melrose High School graduate, will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in finance and economics.
“There was a really big difference,” Rush said about both universities. “You know your professors better (at ENMU) and they care about you being in class. It makes you strive to do better.”
Rush said she will be one of the graduates in the Fall 2005 Academic Honors Convocation which will be held at 3 p.m. in the University Theatre Center on the ENMU Campus.
“I’m really excited,” Rush said about graduation. “I took my last final today and I have a couple of days to relax and think about graduation.”
Sarah Cook also attended a small school, Elida, before transferring to Portales High School where she graduated. On Saturday, Cook will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in history.
Cook said she wants to give a special thanks to her parents, Rusty and Chris Cook and her history professor, Don Elder who inspired her. In fact, Cook was convinced she wanted to be a history teacher after attending Elder’s classes.
“Dr. (Don) Elder inspired me to go into the history field,” Cook said. “He’s a phenomenal story teller. You learn a lot from him.”
Pat “Cinco” Boone took a similar path that Cook did in getting an education. Boone, too, attended Elida High School before transferring to Portales High School, where he graduated. Boone will be receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, but he doesn’t have to look for a job.
Boone already has his plate full with teaching pre-algebra and algebra classes at Portales High School and he is a junior varsity basketball coach and assistant varsity basketball coach. Boone is coaching a basketball game on Friday afternoon and another game on Saturday afternoon after graduation ceremonies.
Boone said he wouldn’t mind remaining in eastern New Mexico for his career.
“I would like to continue to coach basketball, wherever it takes me,” Boone said. If his career path leads him to stay in eastern New Mexico, he wouldn’t mind that at all. “I love Portales and the people around here.”
Boone and Brian Kirchner graduated from Portales High School in 2001 and on Saturday both of them will be graduating from ENMU at the same time. Kirchner said he is looking forward to graduation and being with family. He said his parents and two younger brothers live in Minnesota. Kirchner said they will be making the trip to Portales.
“It’s a very big step in my life,” Kirchner said. “It’s been a goal of mine. My family is proud of me. I look forward to graduation and seeing friends at the Portales high school game on Saturday night.”
Mary Ayala, professor of modern languages at ENMU, will be the keynote speaker for the ceremonies. There will be a commencement reception for ENMU graduates from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday in the Ballroom of the Campus Union Building on the ENMU campus.